Friday, October 23, 2009

Blogging Project Runway: A Psychosociologic Study of the Classes

I am here for my weekly Project Runway recap.It's getting easier because there are less designers and ergo, less photos to find, upload etc...
This season has kind of been a disappointment actually and it has little to do with the designers who are all talented and competent people.
My issue is with the producers and writers who have come up with nothing but the playbook of my sketching teacher's curriculum for any given semester as challenges.
It seems like they are going one by one through all of our assignments. Seriously.
We did the movie, we did the sparkly evening/stagewear...And of course Ms. Rhodes (who must be moonlighting as a producer on Project Runway) gave us city or country as inspiration as one of our possible collection themes.

Not for one second did I consider St. Tropez, or Palm Beach or Aspen or Hollywood.
Why? Because I do not aspire to the life of New Money. Really from far away it all seems very glamorous, but there is a very good reason why the rates for admission into rehab facilities and of depression are just as high among very rich folk and very poor folk. The ones at the bottom are hopeless. The ones at the top are hopelessly bored. How do I know? I grew up around them. I have been to the charity functions. I have been to the galas and polo matches. I have done high tea and cocktails at embassies. And I would rather go to a good gay bar or a Cure concert or a foam party. I hate caviar. Champers? I would seriously rather have an excellent Vodka (Russian Standard from St. Petersburg comes to mind) and a plate of humble Tacos al Pastor. The very rich also tend to be somewhat superficial and somewhat pretentious because I think they think it's expected of them. As I have said before, I believe that creativity feeds on adversity. Not that I do not envy the rich certain things, because I do. I envy them the ability to sleep soundly through the night without erupting in cold sweats as the first of the month approaches because they have to cough up the rent. And I envy them the ability to approach the mailbox without shaking and hyperventilating because they know it is full of bills that they cannot pay. Those are the things that make "wage slave" life and "La Vie Boheme" suck like a toothless crack whore.
But that being said, I do not find their lifestyle either aspirational or inspirational because no one is ever satisfied with what they have. The new money (as in movie stars, oil money, tech money ex: The Basses or the Wyatts or The Gates) wants desperately to be old money ( as in bootlegging, war profits, industrial exploitation of the masses ex: The Kennedys and The Astors). Old money wants to be royalty. And royalty is constantly preoccupied with its obsolescence and with finding meaning to life. The result is that no one enjoys the here and now. The wonderful life they presently have. And that is the grossness and lie of "aspirational" everything. It robs you of the beauty you have now in your hand by rubbing in your face all the things that you do not.
I know that the last thing people interested in fashion want to read about is a psychological analysis of the socioeconomic strata but you cannot discuss the work of Michael Kors without dwelling in that psychology at least a little.

Michael Kors (or as I call him The Duchess of Orange) is, like his colleague Ralph Lauren, a designer whose main inspiration and aspiration is the perceived life of the very rich. The polo matches. Summering in the Hamptons. Living on Park Ave. Shopping on Rodeo Dr. Sunbathing in St. Tropez. Sailing in a yatch to Mykonos.Yes, I read Gloria Vanderbilt's book "Little Gloria... Happy at Last" too. When I was 6.

I know that there is a market for that because both Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren have made very good lives for themselves from doing just that and selling that illusion but personally I prefer the work of designers whose inspirations are of a more intellectual or artistic nature. Give me Viktor and Rolf, or Gareth Pugh or Elsa Schiapparelli or Alexander McQueen. Any day. I like fashion that excites me and challenges me and makes me think. I think the profound longing for the lifestyle of the mythical "wealthy" has a certain pathos that sometimes actually touches me. Longing for a life and a world that they yearned to enter and that never will fully accept them because they were not born into it. It's almost like reaching out with a stretched out, trembling hand for a glimmer of hope and beauty in an ugly world that they cannot handle. The world of homeless people and unemployment rates and economic downturns and corporate bailouts. Do I blame them for their escapism? Not one bit. Reality does bite and I am woman enough to admit it.

When I was considering a geographic location as a possible inspiration for my work, the places my mind flew to were very different: Port-au-Prince, Havana, St. Petersburg in 1987, New Orleans, Hamburg, Victorian London. Places with a certain level of contrast, of chiaroscuro, like a rich red wine. Places with history and pain and the perfume of magic and revolution and change right at the very surface and layers and layers of implications and complexity.

As I told Ms. Rhodes and my class when I was presenting my collection, you can always see my politics in my work. My collection was a mixture of movie and geographical locale. I ended choosing "Sweeney Todd" and Victorian London as my theme. My classmates used to joke that the only thing missing from my boards were the scurrying rats. But after viewing my collection and hearing my presentation they all went back to watch the movie again. They did not see or get what I got. That the movie was about abuse of power, resentment and oppression and the consequences of those things. The rich on the poor. The adults on the young. Men on women. With tragedy as a result and rebellion as the redeemer. I am much deeper than people give me credit for.

In this challenge the designers had to pick from a Michael Kors-ish list of locales as the inspiration for their designs. Let's see what they came up with...

Christopher-Santa Fe:


How was this look spared the the auf? I am still mystified. The choice of fabrics, garments, silhouette everything was a big miss. Like the Other Milla (that is what I always call Milla Jovovitch, she is lovely and funny and talented and very smart and one of the celebrities I actually really like. I think she was a great judge) and Heidi said, the only interesting thing about that look was the belt. And a belt does not a look make. The rest of it was pretty tragic starting by the use of chiffon. The desert and the West inspires something solid, rugged and of substance. Denim, corduroy, leather. Not wispy chiffon and specially not THOSE colors of chiffon.

Carol Hannah-Palm Beach:


This was actually quite good. For a minute there, I actually thought she was going to do a kaftan which would have been daring and saucy considering how maligned they have been in this body-con era but they are amazing when well done as in examples by Valentino, YSL or actually this awesome one from Ozzy Clark from when I was at London Fashion Week last year:


But the print and colors she choose very much reads Palm Beach and the dress was actually lovely.

Althea-St.Tropez:


This was serviceable and well made. Did it read St. Tropez? Like it read any other warm locale that would make the use of a chiffon cover up and shorts appropriate. It was just a'wight for me. It was not particularly French and to me St. Tropez reads a little more nautical and devil-may-care. A little more Ile de RĂ©. Yes the shorts but in Navy cotton. Cable knit oversized ivory fisherman's sweater. And a stripped navy and white Petit Bateau t-shirt with espadilles. Now THAT is St. Tropez.

Gordana-New York:


I loved this little dress. It reads New York and New York IS gray. New York is not kelly green or fuchsia or canary yellow. New York is not black. New York is sparkly grey and there is nothing wrong with doing entire collections in one color. Just ask Rei Kawakubo or Yohji Yamamoto. That little dress was just beautiful and perfectly balanced and well-made. Just like the Other Milla said, the only thing that bugged me was that Gordana was throwing herself under the bus when it was probably her best effort to date.Which considering the crap she has been taking all season from the judges and how tired she seemed is not surprising. It's also a cultural thing though. I have a Russian friend and he always is telling me I should be more modest. So being self-effacing and modest is a positive thing among Eastern Europeans.

Irina-Aspen:


With the time alloted and the budget constraints, I have to admit that this was a really great entry. She did three very good pieces including a knit and a pant in one day and that is pretty darn impressive because they were quite well constructed. Did it read Aspen? A little more like Park City but close enough. The aesthetic was very Russian mafioso trophy wife but cool. I think that the win could have gone equally to Gordana or Carol Hannah but I think they gave it to her because of the breadth of showing three separate garments.

Logan-Hollywood:


A work of art is as good as its inspiration and in this case Logan's inspiration is what did him in. Hollywood can be a lot of things. It can be punks and rockers from Sunset. It can be Lana Turner and Ava Gardner and Marilyn Monroe. But to pick the most vapid and bland and blah people in Hollywood as your inspiration is invariably going to lead to a vapid, bland and non-distinguished look. La Lohan and the Olsen Twins? Why not Misha Barton or Heidi Montague while you are at it? EWWWWW ... The mere thought sends shivers down my spine. The garments per se were ok and I totally agree with both Milla and Heidi for once, it was a "I really did not mind it" result but that is not what he should have been shooting for.

Nicolas-Greece:


I think Nicolas must have been tired and fed up. This look had more to do with a straight jacket or a mummy than with anything reminiscent of anything remotely Greek.
Maybe a Greek yogurt strainer perhaps. Still, the pants were pretty decent and well-fitted. I do not think he deserved the boot. I think that in this case Christopher's look clearly earned elimination but once again the judges spared him for some reason.

So there you have it... another week has gone by and we are almost on the final stretch. I really hope that they are saving the best for last... And I will leave you with my personal philosophy of life:




How could I be anything else?

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